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Carina Ray

National Central University, Taiwan

Curriculum Vitae


This project identifies a fantasy-troped cultural thinking about corruption in contemporary popular narratives that address the injustice and violence of imperialist and nationalist histories as integral to what is understood as the modern, the liberal, or the West. Neoliberal empowerment narratives utilize a valuation of a lawful and autonomous transparency over behind-the-scenes networks of corruption to speak directly to inequality and injustice, but do so in a way that occludes the already nontransparent structural problems that propelled the original movements for transformative change, ultimately privileging only the deserving individual or demographic’s assimilation into an advantageous position. This narrative is not radically new, but rather a continuation of the cultural narration of liberalism; like the latter, it is based on the interests of capital and increasing transnational liberalization, and leaves unquestioned most existing systems and structures, i.e., free trade, the rule of law, carceral culture, and the economic valuing of human life (Lowe).

Literary and cultural critics have identified the critical potential of worlding narrative techniques specific to science fiction and fantasy genres (SFF) for engaging dominant worldviews (Todorov, Suvin, Delany) and the purportedly totalizing logic of neoliberal realism (Spade). This project explores how contemporary SFF can use this critical potential in the genre to address the corruption/transparency logics of neoliberal cultures. Cultural texts include the Parable novels by Octavia Butler, the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, and the Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu. These novel series use SF tropes such as transparency as a superpower and otherworld narrative structures to embody and question the corruption vs. transparency binary in imaginary worlds marked, often paradoxically, as the West, the North, the proto-modern, and the scientifically perceivable universe. The goal of the project is to explore how SFF texts push corruption to the limits of contemporary political thought, identifying assumed understandings of justice, equality, democracy, or even rationality in a morally charged vocabulary of transparency, choice, freedom, and responsibility (Reddy, Yoneyama, Lin, Williams). Methodologically, this project engages recent critical appraisals of anti-corruption as neoliberal discourse from scholars based in South Asia (Chatterjee, Sengupta, Patnaik, Chang, Wong). It draws upon political theory that does not assume a fundamental link between liberalism (i.e., rights based on property and the possessive individual) and democracy or any of its constitutive terms. It puts the twentieth-century canon of literary criticism on the fantastic, which reads SFF a response to post-Enlightenment worldviews, in dialogue with the more interdisciplinary critical studies that place SFF directly in relation to colonial histories of liberalization and neoliberalism. This methodology situates the contemporary genre in a moment when necessary political thinking is stymied by a liberal bottom line that attempts to divide the world into liberal and illiberal geopolitical space, demographics, or individuals. Defining corruption as a larger, cultural analytic that marks both the limit and the very possibility of the liberal, this project posits SFF as an important set of texts for engaging this analytic and for identifying other existing worldviews as resources for critical thought in the present.

Amie Elizabeth Parry is a Professor in the English Department of National Central University and a core member of the Center for the Study of Sexualities. Her books include Interventions into Modernist Cultures: Poetry from Beyond the Empty Screen, which received the Book Award in Literary Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies in 2009, and Penumbrae Query Shadow: Queer Reading Tactics (in Chinese), jointly written with Naifei Ding and Jen-peng Liu. She has also published articles in positions: east asia cultures critique, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, and Wenshan Review.

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